Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whose Spirit Are You Feeling?

Have you ever stopped to think about whose spirit you're feeling when you "feel the Spirit"? The question is if you're feeling the influence of our Heavenly Father's spirit, Christ's spirit, or the spirit of the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit. Since we maintain that they are physically separate we also maintain that they have separate spirits. Can we, or should we, even figure out whether we're feeling the unique influence of either of the three?

After posing this question and thinking about it for some time, I've decided that perhaps it's not wise to try and subdivide the influence of the Godhead. Perhaps us Mormons are already too guilty of trying to separate the Godhead too much whenever we emphasize their "threeness" more than their "oneness". They are infinitely more one than they are separate.

I'm content with the idea that I can feel the united and interconnected energy/influence/spirit of the one God/Godhead we worship. With that in mind, I now perceive the phrase "the Spirit of God" differently. I like thinking of it more as the Spirit of the one God/Godhead. By any means, it would be foolish to try and limit either of their influence on us.

During the sacrament prayer, in exchange for our promises to follow and remember Christ, we're “promised that his Spirit, meaning the Spirit of Christ, will always be with [us]. This is no small matter, because the Spirit of Christ is the Light that radiates from God to fill the immensity of space and uphold all of creation. It is the light that enlightens the eye and the light that enlightens the understanding. ‘The Glory of God is intelligence, another scripture says, and this great light—intelligence can flow into humble communicants through the covenant of the sacrament prayer (D&C 93:36)". (Richard Bushman, "A Very Short Introduction to Mormonism").

I also like how Blake Ostler described a loving interpenetration of freely cooperating wills. He once wrote: "I assert that both the Father and the Son are eternally divine. However, there is a priority of the Father in the sense that the Father offers his love to the Son, and in each moment of eternity the Son has freely chosen to fully return that love. They both offer their love to the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost has freely chosen in each moment of eternity to return that love. "It is in virtue of this loving interpenetration of freely cooperating wills that these three are one God and also have been eternally one God. Now they are inviting us into this same relationship."

So in short, the question of "whose spirit are your feeling?", while interesting, perhaps isn't as important as some might think. Instead of trying to understand which spirit we're feeling (whether that of the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost), we ought to recognize what our scriptures assert--that they're "one God". And perhaps we're never more "at one" with them than when we're filled their love.


Jared said...

I agree, trying to determine whose Spirit we're feeling isn't productive.

However, as baptized members, we are told over and over to obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I think a more important question is:

Are we experiencing the Holy Ghost or the gift of the Holy Ghost when we feel the Spirit?

We're taught that only baptized members can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. We are also taught that we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost when we're baptized by the Spirit (fire and the Holy Ghost).

Now we're back to the original question: Are we experiencing the Holy Ghost or the gift of the Holy Ghost when we feel the Spirit?

Clean Cut said...

That is an interesting question, Jared. My gut instinct tells me there's not a difference in what you'd feel. It's the same spirit. So perhaps the question should be "what IS the difference?"

If there is a difference between feeling the influence of the Spirit (which I believe ANYONE can) and having the gift of the Holy Ghost, how is this satisfactorily explained? And by satisfactory, I think I mean without being trite or dogmatic.

Is the "gift" of the Holy Ghost more of an divine mandate/opportunity to feel it or use it in increased or prolonged significance? And is this question really answerable (at least by any mortal at the present time)?

Jared said...

You asked: So perhaps the question should be "what IS the difference?"

Best on my experience and understanding I believe the answer to your question is as follows:

1. LDS believe the manifestations of Holy Ghost are available to non LDS.

2. LDS believe that the gift of the Holy Ghost is reserved for LDS because of the authority restored in the restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith.

3. LDS believe that receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is the single most important thing a member can accomplish in this life.

4. LDS believe there are two parts to baptism--first baptism of water and then the baptism of fire.

5. LDS believe that receiving the baptism by fire is to receive a remission of sins.

6. LDS believe that a remission of sins is to be born again, receiving a mighty change.

7. LDS believe that we receive the manifestations of the Holy Ghost before and after we're baptized, but that there are greater things available to us when we receive a remission of sins by fire and the Holy Ghost.

8. LDS believe once a remission of sins is received our standing before God is greater, and therefore so are our responsibilites.

I wrote these 8 thoughts out with the hope you would comment on them. Do you agree with these statement, or do you question them? I'm very interested in your opinion.

Seth Adam Smith said...

Great website. Keep up the great posts!

Clean Cut said...

Jared, I agree that LDS generally believe those things. I just don't think those 8 statements necessarily answer the question.

Maybe your number 7 comes closest when you talk about "greater things" coming with the "gift" of the Holy Ghost. But those things remain somewhat ambiguous to me.

Also, do you believe that LDS who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost are the only ones who truly have their sins remitted--exclusively? I'm not convinced that the efficaciousness of that spiritual process is necessarily married to priesthood authority/authorization. Regardless, this still doesn't get us much closer to listing the difference(s) between the Holy Ghost and the GIFT of the Holy Ghost.

Jared said...

Clean Cut--

You asked: " you believe that LDS who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost are the only ones who truly have their sins remitted--exclusively?"

This is a great question and opens up some very useful exploration of the Doctrine of Christ.

Joseph Smith said:

"I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book" (TPJS, p. 194).

The Book of Mormon is all about getting nearer to God by abiding by its precepts. Joseph Smith taught that there are two comforters, the first comforter is the Holy Ghost and the second is Jesus Christ (TPJS 149-150). I hope you will read his full remarks on pages 149-50 before reading further.

With those few thoughts in mind we can turn to the BofM and learn how to get nearer to God. The message of the BoM prophets to those in our day is that they received a visitation from the Savior, and so can we (Ether 12:39-40). The BoM turns out to be a "how to" come into God's presence manual.

With this brief back ground I’ll do my best to give an answer to the two questions you raise:

1. " you believe that LDS who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost are the only ones who truly have their sins remitted--exclusively?"

2. What is the difference between having the Holy Ghost and having the gift of the Holy Ghost?

The Book of Mormon answers both of these questions:

Part 2 below

Jared said...

Part 2 2 Nephi 31

13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
Note: in the verse above notice the three parts of baptism: 1) baptism by water, 2) baptism by Holy Ghost, 3) baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost. Notice how Nephi makes it clear that there is a difference between receiving the Holy Ghost and fire and of the Holy Ghost when he says “yea, then cometh”—this clearly separates the events.

In Moses 6:60 greater understanding is given to the meaning of these three separate events:

For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified.

The Spirit or the Holy Ghost justifies us, or in other words, we’re forgiven of our sins. The blood sanctifies us, or in other words, we receive a remission of our sins through the blood of Christ.

Jared said...

Part 3

14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.

15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
Note: in verses 14 and 15 we are warned in unmistaken terms that once we have received all three baptisms and should then deny the Savior “it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.”
16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
Note: verses 17 and 18 tell the followers of Christ that we are at the beginning—the gate—when we’ve received the three baptisms. The verses that follow then tells us what we need to be doing thereafter.
19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

There is more that can be said. I didn’t want to take more space. It took three comment spaces as it is.

I’m very interest in your thoughts on this.

Clean Cut said...

I'm not sure what to make of your exegesis of 2nd Nephi, Jared. I still think there are only two baptisms--water and the Holy Spirit. I don't read the "then" as a separation of time, as you seem to do. Only as a confirmation, clarification of the previous statement.

Now, I love 2nd Nephi. Chapter 31 is one of my favorites. But I don't think they answer those two questions as definitively as you seem to think they do. The answers still seem elusive--anything but forthright.

Jared said...

Clean Cut,

lol, sorry about the exegesis.

This subject is near and dear to my heart. I took it up with you because of the what you said in this post, and because you have 2 Nephi 31:20 on your blog.

I appreciate the time you put in reading my comments. I also appreciate your willingness to say what you think.

My interest in this subject came by experience or I would have continued to focus on studying the peripheral, controversial material that is so popular in parts of the 'nacle.

Most members don't study the depths of the first principles.

I hope the material I've provided, and that which follows will persuade you to rethink your understanding of the Doctrine of Christ.

I'll be as brief as I can. I hope you will let me know your thoughts after reviewing this material.

I'm not the only one who see a three part process to baptism. Last year, I attended BYU education week and to my surprise I found brother C. Robert Line teaching it. Also, BYU professor Kent P Jackson in his 8 Volume, Studies in the Scriptures.

In Joseph Smith's day Daniel Tyler said the prophet Joseph Smith taught him about a 3 part baptism:

The Prophet Joseph Smith was a great reconciler of discrepancies in passages of scripture which were or seemed to be in conflict with each other. Until I heard the great expounder of Bible doctrines explain the following passages I concluded there must be a wrong translation in one verse or the other. One verse read: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire."—Matthew iii, 11.

Here we have baptism with water, baptism with the Holy Ghost, and baptism with fire, three in number. The question naturally arises, how can this passage be reconciled with the following: "There is one . . . Lord, one faith, one baptism."—Ephesians iv., 4-6.

Joseph Smith reconciled these two scriptural passages. He said:

"There is but one baptism; it takes the baptism of water, of the Holy Ghost, and of fire to constitute one full baptism."

Helen Mae Andrus, Hyrum L. Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 51.

One last evidence of a 3 part baptism is found in the account of King Benjamin in the BofM.

The account of king Benjamin’s people is interesting. They were a people who had the gospel among them for many years. They had many prophets and holy men among them, and were described as a diligent people in keeping the commandments, a people highly favored of the Lord. Yet they had not received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost—the mighty change. In other words, they hadn't fulfilled their baptism covenant.

A question one might ask: OK, there are 3 parts to baptism--so what?

The answer is found in the lives of the prophets. Alma, and the four sons Mosiah, for example. They had greater access to the things of the Spirit because of their standing before the Lord. That is what it is all about.

The Lord is no respecter of persons, all members of the church will eventually need to fulfill their baptism covenant, why not sooner, than later.

Based on my experience, it took a crisis in my life to bring it about. The price was high, and very painful to bring me to a point where I pleded with the Lord saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ.

Clean Cut said...

No need to apologize for the exegesis, Jared. The Doctrine of Christ is a most worthy discussion. Certainly that is at the heart of the gospel. I'm just not seeing your explanation here as shedding as much light on the questions at hand as you seem to imply. But I sincerely appreciate the attempt to answer my questions. That's more than anyone else had done so far!

Jared said...

Take care. :D